in the name of all that is good…where do i begin?
(how about this = take a seat, this is a LOOOOOOONNNNG one!)
Well, first of all, i’m a bit embarassed. When we returned, and I got back to my desk here at work, I began the process of sifting thru some 238 individual emails, only a fraction of which were related to actual “work.” Upon completion of this long task, i wrote you and Fred an email explaining that we were home and that we were safe and that we had a wonderful time and that I would impart to you both the wonderful details once the fervor of returning to work dies down to a low roar. And that time is slowly approaching. However, when i get into work this morning, i get this from you, wondering if we’re home yet. A little confused, i go to check the email i sent a few weeks ago, and cannot find it. You never got it. Its still sitting in my “drafts” folder, missing a closing sentence or two…sitting in there, unsent. Embarassed apologies. As if something so simple isnt embarassing enough, but for you two to not know if we were home or not?
And so, back to the first sentence: Where to begin?
The magic and the excitement of that privledge have not waned all that much since we’ve been back. While the work-weeks seek to distract me, my mind still frequently and easily wanders back to Anna and our time down there. I long to return there in so many ways. Almost in a desert island sort of way, I long to return. Anna and I are fairly solitary people, WHEN we are alone. by that i mean that while we host & plan the majourity of the functions attended by our beloved Circus (circle of friends), we are more frequently then not turning the phones off and stealing away by ourselves…being alone with each other. This drives our friends crazy for they do come to us for inquiries about the upcoming weekends. But going down there together on our honeymoon was significant in that we were COMPLETELY alone for 3 weeks. The whole time, we were just surrounded by the situations we love so much here. Good food at new resaurants, road trips with good music, taking pictures, sleeping in, exploring pubs & meeting nightlife. It was so concentrated. No cell phones, no organizing, no expectations, no majour things to remember. It was pure “US.” I think thats what a honeymoon should be…or any trip with your love…concentrated “you.” During these wonderfull times of our lives, its not always clear that its occurring. Its that you’re distracted by the fun. But there were many times when we would just catch each other staring at each other…and coming to the same multitude of expressions. Disbelief = that we’re actually married and on our honeymoon in such a great place. Decompression = that this is tru relaxation after a year of hard-core planning. Calm = in that there was little or no reason to disrupt the “now” for an agenda “later.” Humble = cause while we WERE in a great land under great circumstances, there was a genuine feeling of “good LORD we are 2 lucky souls.” And that last one is key, for realization of how fortunate we were to be right there, right then was to appreciate all of life. To have found anna, to have fallen in such perfect love, to have experienced such a wonderfull wedding, to have seen my family at said wedding after so long a gap, and then to be down there with all the blessings from those we love. It still gives me cause for pause. And always will.
And I could spend hours talking and writing about the Business Class seats. Like parenthesis encapsulating the most wonderful point, your gift was a perfect way to embark & return. We were treated like King and Queen. Our crew seemed to instinctively know the purpose of our journey for their actions were almost fawning. perhaps we’re simply not used to such care. It was exquisite. Those seats allowed us so much. There is something very tangible about the feeling those seats gave us both coming and going. On the way there, it allowed us the physical rest we would need to start our first day in Sydney the right way. On the return, when the fatigue is 3 weeks deep and the depression of reality is thick, the thoughts of the Business Class pamper because a shining joy. For, by the time that the last days events were complete, Quantas came thru. The drive back down to Sydney, the finding of the airport, the gassing of the rental car, the return of the rental car, the virtual repacking of our 6 bags, the checking into an airport w/o air conditioning…all of that was ok, for what awaited us was the most grand of departure lounges, and the sweetest of seats…given to us by 2 very special family. Thank you again.
is where i feel i want to begin the complete rundown of events. I fee i should warn you, because (i) i love to write and (ii) i have a hellova lot to say and (iii) i’ve not yet formally done this…write it all down. So, print this out and take a seat. I’ll try to keep it concise and entertaining!!! Please understand that this is going to be a tool for me as well. For while we took 19 rolls of film and 3.5 tapes of video, the day to day events need to be transcribed or they will be forever remembered in only fits and bursts. This will also be a tool in another sense – for anyone else going to Sydney, our age or other, this will be a usefull one. Have you 2 ever been there?
SYDNEY 12.29 to 1.3
We arrived in Sydney at 8.03 am on 12.29, very refreshed due to the good solid wholesome rest we had en route. The 90 minutes it took to get out of the Sydney airport and into a cab seemed to fly by for we were just entranced by being in this new land. hearing accents, reading foreign advertisements, and just being there together. Once we were in the cab and driving into Sydney, my organization took over and out came the maps. I wanted to get my bearings and get them fast. We were going to be in Sydney for 5 days w/o a car…i was going to digest the layout. By the time we checked into our cute little Central Park Hotel (right in the Central Business District), our urge to get outdoors was our strongest emotion.
Our first day saw a good amount of rain, which would be our friend for close to half of our 21 days. But wait, both Anna and I love the rain. It is our favourite aspect of weather. We both attribute this to growing up in Arizona where rain was so scarce that we cherished it when it *did* rain. To this day, rainy days our very special to us. Taking the advice of Kevin Kirby, a friend who had only just left Sydney, we remanded ourselves to the top of the AMP tower, which claimed to be the tallest something-or-other in all of the specific region-or-other. From this tower, the entire city of Syney repeated out before us. This was the single-most best way to start a trip to Sydney for this reason. All of the rest of our honeymoon was out there. There was work to be done. We were powerfully hungry. And this is where the first lesson was learned. There is no such thing as a “restaurant” that is open before 12 noon. Pubs, but no pub food. no hotdog cart, no fancy cafe, no nothing. It was 11. However, letting our stomaches walk around for an hour showed us many of the streets and shops and things that we were to enjoy later. Ironically, we finally ate at a restaurant called ARIZONA, whose walls were festooned with anything SouthWestern, let alone from Arizona itself.
The rest of the day was spent stealing away from the rain into various pubs or shops. We found a district called The Rocks, which is the oldest quarter of Sydney. We met a fellow from New Zealand who had only recently left our very own Marin County for his work visa had expired. We talked about our upcoming trek to New Zealand. We talked about sheep. Sheep are featured very frequently in our New Zealand leg…see below. For dinner that night, we ordered “take away” from a cafe called RETRO attached to a theatre called METRO. Amazing chicken & eggplant sandwiches. Outside of restaurants, wine was supplied only at “bottle shops.” Oh yea, and restaurants dont have a corkage fee, BYO is just a common thing there…
We picked up a bottle of what was to be the first of a string of amazing bottles during the honeymoon. We would boast that you simply couldnt get a bad bottle of red. Because no matter what we drank, in a restaurant or by the glass or label-shopping in a bottleshop, we consistently got good wines from the AU and NZ growing regions. And nothing over $20, which is to say after conversion, “nothing over $14!”
The rest of our time in Syndey was doing much of the same = walking tens of miles a day, exploring the customs, meeting the people and seeing the sights. Oh, and watching Cricket on the telly, which i am proud to say, i finally understand. New Years Eve/Day was like any other. Anna wanted to have her hair done, so i took that time to explore the last sector of the city yet unseen, Darling Harbour. I knew it to be ripe with attractions, and i was looking for possibilities for where were going to go for NYE. Well, i found it. Darling Harbour is “right around the corner” from the Sydney Harbour bridge, and could easily see their fireworks. Darling Harbour itself was slated to have a massive fireworks display, and visible were all the displays from all the towns up the harbour. Just like 4th of July in Sausalito, we were going to see multiple simultaneous displays. Not knowing when we were going to ever get back to the hotel, Anna and I dressed for the evening and went back to Darling Harbour. By 3pm, the city was starting to acheive an excitement and capacity becomming of such a monumentous event. Turns out that one of the most well-respected nightclubs in all the world, HOME, was right there on Darling Harbour. We stumbled across tickets for their NYE party and couldnt pass it up. From this multi-level nightclub, we could see all of the fireworks, some first-hand, and others on monitors thruout the club. Again, i could spend hours and hours explaining how wonderfull these people were, in this club, on this night. I cannot think of a better place we could have spent that evening then surrounded by so many like-minded individuals in such a well-appointed venue. Trully magical. As i’m sure was the case in many other citys, there was so many “distractions” that we didnt get back to the hotel until 5am, just enough time to watch New Deli ring in their 2000. With only 2 hours of sleep, we were back up and watching London on the telly ring in theirs. Beleive it or not, we somehow mustered up the energy to take the bus out to famous BONDI BEACH. Weather and fatigue saw to it that we werent “too” adventurous, but we were treated to the sight of FAR MORE revelers then we though would still be at it. The beach was covered with those either sleeping it off, fighting tooth and nail to keep it going, or people like us, just wanting to be “up” and with others on such a significant day. I was in a great sense of releif/disbeleife that after 1/2 the world had their dreaded Y2K, that nothing was awry, no evil affoot. The rest of this wonderful day was spent sitting in bed, watching the rest of the world ring it in. We called our friends in Lake Tahoe before theirs. What seemed like a fun jesture on our part was received 10 fold by these revelers across the world. To have already had the Y2K 12 hours earlier, to be on the honeymoon…and to somehow get thru to wish good fortune on others…they were floored. We were tired and in love.
And the rest of our days in Sydney were spent as such, shopping, , going to museums, sight seeing, drinking, meeting the locals, walking tens of more miles per day, and taking copious amounts of photographs. We also liked to study their telly news reports. If it wasnt having a chuckle at their ads, and inflection, it was watching the ubiquitous Cricket match and listening to the supremesist tone of their teams players and announcers.
NEW ZEALAND 1.3 to 1.10
The morning of 1.3 saw Anna and I fitting around like little children. We had just spent 5 days in Great Sydney, and were now going to fly over to Auckland where all kinds of adventures awaited. Some the same, others wholly different. See, i had once thought of New Zealand as a little set of islands right off the coast of Australia. During my research of the lands in question, i began to realize how significant a concept their disparity really was, in social and geographic terms. To get from Sydney to Auckland, its like flying from San Francisco to Chicago. No ferry service here. Australia is fiercly independant from and spitefull of the Crown and all the UK that supports her. New Zealand is like being transported to the UK herself, for NZ still considers themselves direct subjects under direct lineage. That makes for some odd relationships between the Kiwis and the Aussies. Never the mind though. We’ve got larger things to deal with. New maps, new cities, new restaurants…and something else = a new side of the road to drive on!
This was hard. This was REALLY challenging! What seemed at first to be as easy as a flip-flop of the motions, turned out to be extremely difficult to get comfortable with. The drive from Auckland Airport to our hotel in downtown Auckland (45 minutes drive for those who know whats up)…this drive tested the limits of my sanity. Want to change lanes? On go the windshield wipers. Seatbelt? The right hand reaching at air for the belt is on the left now. Left hand turns became non-issues as right hand turns were dealt with by round-abouts. Speaking of round-abouts, they could be the answer to ALL of Americas inner-city traffic. So brilliant is it to keep traffic moving. Any drivers needing to make turns dont have to have those behind them come to a stop. I’m convinced that this is the best civic idea garnered from EU cityplanners. However, i knew that i must get the hang of this new driving position if we were ever going to make it this whole week in New Zealand. We’d planned to drive this car south down the whole length of New Zealands North Island…dropping the car off in the capital of Wellington
Auckland was decidedly quieter then Sydney, and our hotel, CITY LIFE AUCKLAND (very hip, look for CLs in other cities) was as much nicer. It had a washer.dryer! Had we known this, we would have missed that 1/2 day in Sydney where we learned how THEIR laundramats worked. We ate FAR too much of the best Indian food we’ve ever had. And the bottleshops that I went into (save for the first one – “oh my, Tiffany Wine!”) all had outstanding prices on wine that was even better.
The most memorable element of Auckland was the island of Waiheke. A short ferryride away, this island is home to some of the most well-respected vinyards in all of New Zealand. On our boatride, we were treated to why it is the original inhabitants called it “the land of the long white cloud.” We saw cloud formations of such stunning size and beauty, not seen since the monsoons of tucson. Our trip to Waiheke was for the purpose of seeking out a specific and very special vinyard, GOLDWATER VINYARD. We were both fairly certain in our beleif that these people “just happned” to be Goldwaters and that if there *was* a relation, it would have been explored and celebrated by now. So, renting scooters, we cruised the tropically paved streets over to the vinyard. Acting like honeymooning Americans, we allowed ourselves the average tastings and didnt raise any flags. After some time though, Anna just had to speak up. What happened next was trully magical. We met proprieters, Kim & Jeanean Goldwater, who were more tyhen overtly excited about having Barrys grand-daughter & new husband in their company. Kim, a man of some 70 years and his wife took us in and stories began to pour out. And thru these stories, cooincidnece and goosebumps abound. Turns out, Kims grandfather emigrated to New Zealand from Poland in early-mid 1800s. Ok, well known origins of Annas great grandfather, Michael, was that he emigrated out of Poland in 1830. Now, Goldwaters *do* exist elsewhere, but how many from the same town in Poland no more then a decade apart? Kim broke out his family tree and displayed how his grandfather was one of 10 or so children. Cooincidentally, Annas great grandfather was also one of many children. What that means? I think it has something to do with the fact that there was a large-large family GOLDWATER in EARLY 1800s Poland, from which both Annas & Kims family came. Kim & Jeanean stuck on this point as did Anna. There was “too much something there.” To this end, thry gave anna and I a copy of this family tree, which was given to annas father Michael, who seems to be curator of the Goldwater Familty tree. We spent the better half of the rest of the day with them in their home, just talking about the 2 families, talking about “our” wine regions of Northern California, talking about our honeymoon and what was next on the itinerary.
What was next on the itinerary was one more day in Auckland followed by a drive south to the town or Rotorua. And here is where I really got excited. Not only was i getting the hang of the “wrong side of the road” thing, but I as also a avid fan of roadtripping. To be able to do so in a foreign land at our own pace was very rewarding. We had maps, we had coffee, we had chips (called crisps, for “chips” are reseved for french fries) and we had driving music. However, most importantly, we had film and camcorder batteries. Once again, New Zealand treated us to treats of the eyes and analogies to Arizona. I have never before seen so far. The visibility was unearthly. Now, be this due to lack of humidity or lack of polution was not important. Was was important is that we was able to see definition in land features SO far away. Something that is simply not noticed upon a cursory scan of the horizon. But, stopping as frequently as we did, its something that jumped right out at me. To get to Rotorua, it was roughly 2 hours for the skilled. Our drive took 6 hours. Our drive South took us thru some of the quaintest little towns that could have easily been transplanted from the likes of Connecticut, then Pennsylvania, then Northern California at times. Charlestown, Hamilton, and a host of towns with hard-to-pronounce native Maori names.
All the while we were in New Zealand, the whole country it seems was glued to the activities going on in Auckland Harbour, where we had just been. Winning the Americas Cup Trophy from the long-standing Americans the previous year was something that every New Zealander was at once fiercely proud of, yet very pessimistic about keeping. The way that the system worked was that since New Zealand won *last* year, all their team had to do was watch as all the other countries’ teams went thru trial race after trial race. That, and practice practice practice. This was the day that Italys PRADA craft broke its mast, increasing the Americans odds at qualifying…which EVERY Kiwi desperately wanted to avoid.
While Rotorua was a bleeding tourist trap the likes of which Vegas would be proud, it had some very special elements. We stayed at a really nice & plushly appointed hotel…that was a comfort. My greatest interest in New Zealand lie in my fascination with its native people, the Maori. Their elaborate and ritualistic tattooing of arms and face have, on more then one occasion, prompted my further exploration into this ancient art. As well, their blunt gesture and facial contortion have intimidated and fascinated me. Motion pictures such as “Once Were Warriors” introduced me to their unique version of Polynesian standards. Rotorua was the respected seat of the Maori tribes, however much a contradiction in terms that may be. Inter-tribal strife is something very familiar & ancient to the Maori tribes. While there seems to be a rebirth of respect for their heritage and unification of their voices, one cannot hear too much about the present-day Maori without hearing about their conficts in the same breath. The ritualistic and architectural presence of the Maorio was everywhere in Rotorua. As was the smell of sulfur, for the whole region is an geographic anaomly. Hot springs and geothermally heated mubbogs were everywhere. Anna and I spent the better half of one whole day sitting in water naturally heated to 103, all the while getting a suntan. True irony.
The best part of Rotorua was our chance to take part in a traditional Maori “hangi,” or feast. This was my hi-point for New Zealand. We were bussed into the boonies of their forests to where an authentic recreation of a Maori village had been constructed. We were greeted in the traditional way: as a visiting tribe. Upon reaching the gates of the villiage, which was hardly a 40×40 foot clearing in the jungle, one of us had to act as the leader from “our tribe.” This person stood in front of us all, as representative. Strange noises, deep in tone, hummed all around us. I thought it was the barritone voice of grown men. Very odd this sound was in that i couldnt beleive a human voice could get that loud whilst being so resonant. After some time, the representative from “their” tribe began the greeting ritual. THIS was huge. The jestures were those of a man who simply did NOT want us there. Fierce facial contortions with the tounge poking out and wiggling around. Extremely swift swings of the spear, in all directions, smacking the ground, whooping the air, stopping suddenly right in front of our caucasion, plain-clothed representitive. Historically, these motions were meant to strike fear in tot he visitors, for the visitors’ intentions could never be taken for granted. Alternately, it was imperitive that the representitive remail motionless, unfazed by the blunt protocal taking place before him.. All of us were admonished from any movements or reactions of any kind, for fear of disrespecting this protocol. As well, the non-action of our tribe only inensified the motions of their representitive, culminating in the appearance of a dozen more men emerging into the clearing from the thick jungle. After an unclear apex, their representitive began to back off and repeat some of the lesser jestures. He then took a branch from his loin-cloth and placed it on the ground right in front of our representative, never taking his eyes off him. As was the peaceful nature of our visiting tribe, our representative slowly bent down and picked up the branch, putting in his belt. With this, their representative and the rest of the men let out the wildest of yells and began to jump and carry on in a much less threatening mannor. This carried them back into the thick of the jungle and onto a path. We had been accepted into their village and were to follow them. From then on out, we were treated as family. We were shown explicitly their traditons and culture. We were treated to their song and to their dance. I learned what it was that I had been hearing outside in the clearing. What sounded like human scary voices coming from all around us was just what was intended. The sound came from a wooden plank-shaped tool the Maori used to swing around on the ends of ropes. It had a “real” name, but they all called it “bull,” to which it DID resemble. The wide arc this plank swung on caused it to spin very rapidly. The friction with the air as it swung, then spun again was this low-pitched rising and falling tone. **Did you get the bull that I sent to you?** Only after these lengthy demonstrations were we lead into a grand hall and treated to a MASSIVE feast of all sorts of meats and veggies, all cooked in the ground right outside. This experience is HIGHLY recommended for anyone who not only wishes to learn about & taste Maori culture, but also wishes to do so on “their terms.” There were prolly a dozen or so outfits and operations in the town of Rotorua that offered some semblance of authenticity in these processes. But this one, you went deep into the forest to a faithful recreation of a village, and the dozens of tribesmen and women who greeted you were VERY warm indeed.
After Rotorua came the sea-side town of Napiers, the “art deco capital of the world.” Napiers achieved this dubious title in 1930-1932 when a massive earthquake leveled this bustling shipping & farming town. Civic leaders sought to overcome the total devistation by initiating plans to rebuild the entire city not only as soon as possible, but on the acrhitecture of the day. What was completed 2 years later, and still stands (& then some) today is the most overtly built city i have ever seen. It looks like Miami on its most exaggerated avenues. Its not that the art-deco is necessarily over the top, it really is your standard textbook art-deco. Whats significant about Napiers is that fact that the art-deco is EVERYWHERE. Every building from the old ones to the McDonalds – curves followed by right-angles followed by repeating rings and back again. From the sidewalks to the newspaper stands. Everywhere.
We stayed at the most grand hotel in all of Napier, out of the way and exquitsite in its architecture. With the fanciest restaurant in all of Napiers attached, Anna and I dined to the single-most finest meal we were to have during the honeymoon…although anna will counter that by reminding me of the eggs benedict we enjoyed the next morning! And the WINE! Grown and harvested right there in the valleys surrounding Napier, some of the finest reds we’ve ever tasted. Napier was a town that was meant to be a “stopover” on our continuing drive south to Wellington. We seriously considered striking our plans in Wellington and staying in Napiers. In hindsight, we truly should have for there was a tremendous amount of history and sights to soak up in this little town.
The drive to Napiers was a very dark-point in the honeymoon…something we will only refer to as the “38.” What looked on the maps to be a state highway, running the best route between Rotorua and Napiers turned out to be nothing short then a nightmare with a silver lining. The road was nothing more then a skinny, unsealed mountail trail. Again though, it was a majour route, so it had the large trucks, called road trains running along it. Mind you, driving on the wrong side of the road was one thing, doing so on a windy dirt/mountain road was another, but to have to share the road with large trucks barrel-assing DOWN the mountain was something else entirely. One two very definite occasions, i physically had to yank the wheel towards the massive drop-off so as NOT to have the on-coming truck hit us. These bastards werent giving us an INCH. Over 120km of the 38 later, i was a wreck. I have NEVER had to keep my guard up for that long before. Close to a dozen times, i would pull over, get out of the car and just break down, wondering if there was some unspoken trick to this road that I had not yet achieved privy to. And it was then that I witnessed the silver lining. We were *WAY* out in the thick of New Zealand, high up on a mountain dirt road. Never would i have taken a rental car up here, it was a mistake that we were up here…yet we could not turn around, we had come too far INTO this…these trucks had to be coming FROM somewhere. Standing on the sides of this trail we were afforded some of the most beautiful scenery i have EVER seen…ever. Tropical rainforst-worthy fauna, streams, wild pigs and horses, wildflowers, mountain outcrops worthy of council with Yosemite or the Rockys. Unspoiled and reeking with invite. With the car turned off, it was quiet enough to hear. It was torture to have to get BACK in the car and go up against the road and its natives once again. Once we finally hit pavement, sean here was gone, tears WERE shed. Dont know how that sounds…i think that ALL would understand if they went thru it as well.
Wellington. Hmmm. Wellington. The capital of all of New Zealand. Its cultural seat. Home of the winningest All Blacks footbal (rugby) team. Home of the high and classy. BAH! Wellington was the patsy. If all other places we stayed in and enjoyed on this honeymoon were spectacular, well, then ONE of those places had to be the place we make fun of. Now, given the right circumstances, Wellington really ought to be given another chance. But on this first trip, we were treated to the worst weather of the entire 3 weeks. Wellington is called the Chigago of the Southern Hemisphere. “Windy Wellington.” You’d think coming from San Francisco we would have been laughing at the wind and the rain and the cold. However, we packed for summertime. Everywhere else, we WERE treated to summertime. However, Wellington, well…Wellington had her bitchy hat on. She was NOT very welcoming. The hotel was extremely overpriced and extremely un-appointed to be charging such. The food was hard to come by as were ANY semblance of a social nightlife on our SATURDAY we were there. Wellington made us promise each otehr that whenever we plan another trip of such a length and coordination, we simply MUST plan to be in good cities for the SATURDAY…the nightlife. You’d think that the capital would be a happening place. Nothing. If there were tumbleweeds, they’d have been blowing thru the streets on this Saturday night. The city layout was a maze masquarading as one-way-streets. PLEASE…dont think that we HATED any part of Wellington. Except for the hotel (the JAMES COOK CENTRA…. boo, hiss), EVERYTHING was taken with a smile, as is the tone upon which i am trying to write this. Everything about Wellington deserved a second chance…someday. It was just that when it rained, it poured…no pun intended. We sequestered ourselves into our electric-green 70’s style hotel room with great wine, Scrabble and the sounds of Cricket on the telly. And all was good.
BACK OVER TO AUSTRALIA
MELBOURNE 1.11 to 1.13
By the time that we were leaving Wellington, we hab begun to admit to ourselves that we were running full. While we thought ourselves to be a-typical tourists, we were being the textbook consumers of foreign goods. Our original set of 4 matching colour-coordinated rolling suitcases had become clinically obese, which for me, necessitated buying a third bag for myself. Dealing with wellington airport at 5am was a treat. With our bags overflowing and our mental capacity at 25% (6am), we realize only at the curbside why it was that our travel agent had booked us on such an early flight to Melbourne. It was the first of only 2 flights from Wellington to Melbourne. The other would be at 6pm, 12 hours away. Now, there’s this phenomenon none too unique to Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport on & around Thanksgiving Thursday where there are *SO* many people in line to check in, that it becomes something from another time. HUNDREDS of people lining up semi-single file, no one talking to one another, inching their bags forward with their legs, ever confident that next year, they’ll somehow avoid all this. If our flight was at 6am, we knew we had to be to the airport by at least 5am. This arrival was late when taking into account that I, like my father, for some reason, needs to get to the airport a solid week before a flight. Remember, getting back over to Australia represented an international flight. So, we got there at 4.45-ish. By the time i video taped & documented the process of myself returning the rental car to the empty counter (covering me arse) and got in line, there were a good 50-75 people in line. Within 5 minutes of Anna and I negotiating our 5 bags into this line, i kid you not, the line had easily doubled, and was out the door. And more time spent doing “whatever” in Wellington would have surely caused us to spend another 1/2 day there…for by the time we got to the counter – 5.30, checked the bags, and did all the passport paperwork, the line had grown by another 50 or so people. There was no way those poor souls at the end of the line were going to make the flight. To be stuck in Wellington. No thank you. Have you ever flown Air New Zealand? It is trully a treat. I heard that all of their planes were born in the 90s, making them the youngest fleet in the world. Inside, all of their seats have been specifically designed to be leaps and bounds more comfortable then other carriers. They freely admit how they’ve sacrificed X% of seats overall to give you, the sitter, Y% more room per seat. And, unlike American carriers, beer and wine were complimentary. And this was coach mind you. The personelle was exceptionally friendly. If you have the chance to fly Air New Zealand, I would highly recommend it.
Melbourne, we think, won. There was just something about it. Something about is compact nature, its young aire, its old history, its spry activity. Within a half hour in the city centre, we immediately agreed that the comparison between Melbourne and Sydney was a great analog for Los Angeles and San Francisco. Sydney and LA shared that crisp, new, wealthy sheen. Where the women are fit and blonde and climbing, and the men wear 3 piece suits from their 40th story advertising firm to their yacht in the harbour. What trees claimed residency were jam-packed into city planned parks. Yes Sydney had scores of cool things and atmospheres reeking of “hip.” However, there was a sense that if one actually lived there, the novelty of that hip would wear off as you scoured deeper for the soul of the city. In a nutshell, Los Angeles. But then, here was Melbourne and its near cry to San Francisco…our *HOME.* Trees lining every street. Buildings with plaques boasting their history. Young people everywhere, both eccentric and modern. Easily considered the “web” capital of AU, which really tickled my fancy. Shopping choices that made our pocketbooks weep and our credit cards sing. Not because there were high prices on everything…no, far from it. Its just that every avenue and every arcade we walked along, had some item that we’ve either never seen before, or was doing something in a WAY we’d never seen before…all of which we simply must have. From sunglasses to casual shirts to shoes to music. Melbourne was hands down the paradise for the shopper with expendibles. Like *WE* fit into that category? Hi debt! Hellllooo! Ah, but i hear the prophetic words of our Aunt Geri…”If not on your honeymoon…then when?” never truer then in Melbourne. And just like San Francisco, Melbourne just oozed with everything we like. Its best restaurants were tucked up some random alley, its hip bars were nestled against high-class theatre, artwork seeming to emerge from piccadilys & mall-walks, trolleys running every-which-way taking you right to, if not very close to where you wanted to go. Internet cafes that offered so many wares that they could *easily* have been the types of places you spend all night. Large-ticket casinos clustered with all sorts of shops and restaurants. And *what* a massive selection of ethnicities – food, people & shopping. A river with lots of activity. Clear air. Nice people. Friendly everyhting. It just was the tops in Melbourne. We were prolly at our happiest there. It was the city in which we agreed we’d have a winter/summer home…someday. It charmed us like that. Cause, while Sydney was VERY fun, we didnt do the fantasy have-a-house-there conversation about Sydney as we did after 3 days in Melbourne.
It was outside of Melbourne that we finally did the “wildlife thing.” There was this wildlife conservancy compound about 2 hours east of Melbourne. Half the fun was getting there. Great radio stations in AU. We chose this particular wildlife sanctuary due to its claim that the humans walking within it are the captives in the cages, interacting with the creatures. I think i speak on behalf of anna and myself when i say that some of the best video i’ve ever shot, along with the best photographs we’ve ever taken were inside of those cages. We were first to set-up for the koala introduction. We got the most amazing close-up and “action” shots of their 3 koala on exhibit – “Cindy,” “Joan” and “Adonis.” Walking freely around this park were what i can only call a Melbourne Pidgeon. Not because it looked as such – no, this resembled a crane or heron with the head of a pelican. I call it a pidgeon because of (i) how many there were, and (ii) how incredibly bold they were. You could be walking towards a “herd” of them and they’d barely part for you as you walked thru. Now, these were HUGE birds, easily coming up to above the knee. Very strange. I think i burned a whole roll of film on these guys right outside the car as we pulled up…not realizing just how many of them there would be throughout the day.
WINE COUNTRY NORTH OF SYDNEY
“The Hunter Valley” 1.13 to 1.15
We simply did NOT want to leave Melbourne. Just like in Napiers, we gave serious adult-laden thought to cancelling the rest of our itinerary, claiming whatever percentage we could get refunded, and spending it all in Melbourne along with the rest of the Honeymoon. Alas, we decided that we really really like that red liquid, and seeing as how nice the accomodations had been, we sought to go have some quiet time amongst the vines. We flew from Melbourne to Sydney for it represented something like an 8 hour drive. besides, we couldnt drop our rental off in another city as we had done in New Zealand. So here we were, back in Sydney, this time with a car. However, we were to simply drive right thru, for “The Hunter” as the valley is called, was over 2 hours north. With maps showing our route in triplicate, we STILL got lost. But as most things on the honeymoon, it just didnt matter. Just so long as we were on a paved road, and we were heading in the right direction…sorta…we were ok. No matter how “lost” i say we were though, we were simply never in danger of experiencing another “38.”
Once we drove into the secluded and lush Hunter, we were treated with terrain that was very familiar. They say its climate & temperate zone that makes the wine-growing region exceptional, but i wonder what importance there is to the similarities of mountain & valley. Of course the “vally” part of that is crucial, but we saw mountain ranges and rock formations that could have EASILY been transpalted from Californias Calistoga or Alexander Valley. By this time, we were 100% sure where we were on the map, for the roads (think = cross-streets) were very infrequent and very well named. We were here in a very “down: time in that the middle of the week say virtually no visitors tot he valley, whereas on the weekends, it gets filled to capacity. It was another one of those magical drives for us that afternoon. The music was magical, there had been no problems with the car or road, the cloud-formations after the light rain we’d just had began to do that “heaven impression.” You know, where theres a massive, well-defined cloud, deep & tall. Behind this cloud is the late afternoon sun. Already, time of day dictated that everything is cast in a golden hue. Hut once the sun goes behind this cloud, multiple rays of light pierce out from the source in all directions. Like fingers on a starfish, the cloud is now ensconced with fingers of light. New definition for the cloud immediately takes shape as the light bounces off of, and exposes its valleys and peaks. We both agreed that this is the type of material that “makes” a photograph. We were being given something here…by somoene. We had to document it. So, immediately getting my shoes on, we grabbed lenses and bags and film and went trucking off into the vinyards, stopping only to roll under barbed wire and set up our shots. To this day, these are the only rolls we have YET undeveloped. I cannot wait.
Our hotel was not only next to a vinyard, but was right IN the middle of one. Our patio was no more then 5 feet away from the angled rows of vines. Had the weather cooperated, we’d have been sitting out there all night. The Hunter as a whole was very very mellow. I lazy grid-work of steets punctuated by a vinyard here, a restaurant there…all seperated by miles and miles of rows of grapes. The wine that we did taste was exceptional. We didnt seem too intersted in driving around and tasting seeing as though the drunk driving laws over there are EXTREMELY tight. One only has to blow a .05 in order to be considered over the limit. Thats a little over one glass. We thought it best to save it for dinners & lunches near the hotel. That night saw us getting plum lost amongst the grid of unlit streets. We’re talking absolutely NO lights, even on the horizon. This is a place where there is nothing but vinyards, and nothing between those vinyards but more vinyards. It was getting late. It was starting to sprinkle. We were really hungry, but were well into the 9 oclock hour, which is when most Australian restaurant close their doors to latecomers. We were pretty sure that we could find out way back to the hotel & chomp out on the mini-bar, so that was the direction we were going in. We were on a dirtroad going at a safe clip. And with the headlights illuminating only so much ahead of and only so much to the side of a non-descript dirt road, the repeticious nature of all this was nothing to fixate on. Oh yea, and the CD player broke, so it was silent. Nothing but the din of a sedan going 35-40 on an unsealed road. Are you there? Ok. So up ahead in the road, and then again over to the right…something was there with us…stationary and tall. Like a person. Now, all this was happening very fast, 35-on-a-dirt-road fast. Instinct takes over, stab go the barkes, this-way-&-that goes the rear of the car as we come to a slow crawl. As we slowed, the backwash of dust we had been kicking up enveloped us in poorer visibility then the pitch black. The headlights lighting up the dust made for an odd brightness though. And, as we rolled forward at a 2 or 3 mph crawl, it became clear that not only were we honeymooners not alone out here, but we were being very rude. And very small. The snooty blasse expression from the faces of these wild kangaroos was priceless. From the height of no less then 6 feet, their eyes seemed to glow at us not so much with the glare of the headlamps, but with that rural/suburban growl of “Arent you a day early? Slow the frick down, buddy…” We were mesmerized. We quickly rolled down the windows and inched by the pack of what could have easily been far more then the 6 we saw. One of these honkers was right smack in the middle of the road, and the rest of them were off to the right. At his or her own leisure, his weight slowly shifted off of the muscular tail and onto his feet. And with only the sleightest of haste, hopped off to the left side of the road. We’d seen everything now.
The next day, the one full day that we *DID* have up there was spent driving due east to the coast, a distance of about 50km. We drove until we found a beach, which wasnt that far at all. See, throughout the entire trip, Anna had been longing to go to one of those white-sand beaches with cyan water and clear skys. Turns out that in addition to the weather, the only way we’d see htose beaches is if we drove 12+ hours north up the coast. One can never underestimate the sheer size of Australia. The whole of the tropical side of Australia was “right up here” on a map, but represented a journey of 2 days. Nevertheless, we found a beach, and the weather seemed to be kind enough to open its skys and show us the sunny. Sean promptly fell asleep out there on his stomach. And Anna, being the loving thoughtful and concerned new wife that she is, decided to put sunscreen on my back. I woke up 30-40 minutes later with the sure-fire signs of a sunburn. Not on my back, but on the sides of my torsoe, complete with clearly defined finger-swipes where Anna applied the sunscreen. Oh yea, and the backs of my legs. Here I am, last day of the trip, and I look like something out of Chernobyl with bright pink sides and white back. A month later, i can still clearly see these maroon stripes running from armpit to waistband. I did however have the energy to go to one tasting before we went back to the hotel, and it was a great thing that i did. It was called Brokenwood, and they had a Savignon Blanc to make your glands sing. But what they also had was a label called CRICKET PITCH. Not only does this term refer to the physical throw of a Cricket bowler, but its also the patch of hardened earth, flanked by wicket posts, upon which the hitters must run. Get that? Ok, it was also the name of my dear sister whose birthday is coming up. They had a big oak box that contained 2 750ml bottles and one magnum (1500ml) bottle. And since it was rumoured that California Customs would only allow 1500ml per person, this was enough for both of us to claim. Nice box for presentation and a cool handle for transportation. CRICKET PITCH. One is a Chardonay, and the others are 1998 Cabernets…AU and NZs finest year from what the reviews all said. I think Cricket will really enjoy it. I hope she opens it with US!!
THE LAST DAY 1.15
Our last day was as relaxed and as depressing as any could have been after 21 days on holiday. We were sad to be going, and only the faintest bit eager to get back to the ratrace. And here is where the Business Class seats made us giddy. We were going to be pampered again for 12 straight hours. “what? I didnt hear you over the angels singing.” The drive back south was leisurely and very quick. This was a Saturday, and we could see the parking lot that was the Northbound lanes of the highway…all those Sydnians clammoring out of town on holiday, going up to the Hunter to get glared at by the Roos. We had some quick stops to make in the city of Sydney, which made me anxious and nervous all at once. Nervous in that I still was having some residual issues with this driving thing, regardless of how efficient i was on the open road. Excited in that i was going into a city in which i knew my way around. We needed a third suitcase for Anna, and some other knick-knacks and we were on our way. As i mentioned earlier, there was no air conditioning in the Sydney Airport that day, and boy could you tell. Sweaty fathers and smelly porters. It was a mess. And in true Archibald style, we arrived with a lot of time to spare. So much time in fact that Quantas couldnt check us in because we werent within at most 3 hours prior to departure. “You *know* how hot it is in here? Do you realize how cool it is in that lounge up there?” I sounded like Jack Lemmon, straight out of a scene from THE OUT OF TOWNERS. And calm as a clam anna, right there by my side. Did i mention that Anna becomes ME as a child when we travel? And i become Archie. Something transforms us into a Jekel/Hyde routine in the hours before a flight. Her “i’ll be right back” turns into “I didnt hear them paging me” and my “are you sure you’re sure that you remembered to look under the bed?” turns into “then lemme see it, unpack it.” Sounds evil, but its cute from a distance. Really!
And, as expected, the Quantas lounge for 2 hours was divine. The best wines all lined up for us to pour ourselves. Internet access and American newspapers. Salmon & capers on foccacia or curried roast beef & lettuce wraps? Anna and i pigged out and played close to 2 dozen hi-volume games of gin. We felt like movie stars. We were being treated like movie stars. We had just spent the most priveldged and memorable 3 weeks of our lives. And it was our HONEYMOON! Say that with me…we’re finally married and have just had a fabulously luxurious and action packed honeymoon. 7 plane flights, over 35000 miles flown, 3 rental cars, over 3000 miles driven, 2 boatrides, 2 motorscooters, 8 hotels 8 cities in 3 countries, spanning 2 hemispheres, countless bottles of wine and stingers of ale, 21 dinners, a dozen import CDs, over a dozen new garments, a new pair of sunnies, new shoes, 18 rolls of film, 3+ hours of video, a new haircolour, a millenium NYE for the recordbooks, a freakshow sunburn and a pack of rude kangaroos. And all of this was as fresh in our minds as if it all took place in movie. We were reeling and giggling and reminding each other of the 3 weeks that had just whizzed by us. It was just a fantastic way to spend out last 2 hours on this land down under.